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  • Writer's pictureMichael Stern

Three Book Recommendations to Support Lifelong Flourishing

Note: This article was originally published on CredibleMind


With nearly one in five US adults living with a mental illness, understanding and addressing the physical, social, and financial impacts of mental health has become a major cultural issue. The good news is that there is a growing movement to raise awareness, break the stigma, and make evidence-based approaches widely available to support mental health and the ability to flourish. CredibleMind is proud to be a leader in that movement.

In recognition and support of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to share three books that have had a major impact on my own understanding and practice of psychological, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being by Linda Graham, MFT

“Bouncing Back helps you develop these five Cs of coping [Calm, Clarity, Connection, Competence, Courage] by teaching you how to rewire old patterns of response in your brain that derail resilience and how to wire in new and better coping skills. It shows you how you can apply the latest discoveries of modern neuroscience to your everyday struggles to become more resilient.” - Linda Graham

Bouncing Back is a wonderful and extremely practical book that seamlessly integrates three powerful paradigms: ancient contemplative wisdom, relational psychology, and modern neuroscience. Each of these approaches offers distinct yet complementary insights into how the brain and mind work, and how we can use intentional practice to change how our brain and mind work.

Written by a therapist with decades of experience, the book does a great job of explaining the research behind the tools and techniques presented. But what I love most about this book is the abundant collection of simple practices that can be easily applied on your own to help you develop mindfulness, empathy, somatic intelligence, and resilience.

The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness by Culadasa (John Yates, PhD)

“Direct knowledge of the true nature of reality and the permanent liberation from suffering describes the only genuinely satisfactory goal of the spiritual path. A mind with this type of Insight experiences life, and death, as a great adventure, with the clear purpose of manifesting love and compassion toward all beings.” - Culadasa

The Mind Illuminated is an absolute jewel of a book that provides both a roadmap and a step-by-step training manual designed to guide the reader/practitioner through ten stages of meditation, from Establishing A Practice (Stage 1) to Tranquility and Equanimity (Stage 10). Along the way, each stage is clearly described in terms of its distinct characteristics, goals, and challenges, as well as the techniques for achieving those goals and working through those challenges, and the quality of mastery that results from successful practice.

The author has spent his life “investigating the mind from the outside through neuroscience, and the brain from the inside through meditation.” He therefore brings a unique perspective to both disciplines, and this book is the fruit of his study and practice. As a contemporary meditator who values a practice that bridges ancient wisdom with modern science, this has become my go-to resource on meditation and mind-training.

Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of Your Emotions by Robert Augustus Masters

“What I mean by emotional intimacy is two-fold: (1) becoming intimate with our emotions, including their arising, expression, historical roots, and relational functioning; and (2) becoming intimate in our relationships with significant others through how we express and share our emotions.” - Robert Augustus Masters

When I first read this book several years ago, I was blown away by the clarity, precision, and depth of Robert Augustus Masters’ understanding of emotions. I felt my emotional intelligence immediately expand, as I suddenly had language for experiences I barely knew I was having, never mind being able to articulate them. This might be the book I refer back to the most out of any book I own.

An expert on relationships and “shadow work,” Robert describes the somatic, feeling, cognitive, social, and behavioral aspects of emotion, as well as the deeper wisdom emotions can give us access to when we know how to work with them skillfully. He also provides many simple, powerful practices to deepen our capacity for feeling, relating to, and expressing our emotions in a conscious, healthy way.

Mental Health & Flourishing Is a Practice and a Journey

You will notice that all three of these books are based on practice. Just like reading a book about nutrition is not the same as eating a well-balanced diet, acquiring intellectual knowledge about wellbeing is not the same as directly experiencing it for yourself. And the only way to do that is to apply the tools and techniques in your own life.

Each of these books contains a lifetime of wisdom, and I regularly use the insights and practices from these books both in my personal life and with my coaching clients. I hope they can provide you with some of the same guidance and support that I have received from them, and that they serve you well as companions on your journey to lifelong flourishing.

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